Defense Industry Defense Policy Defense Technologies Italy United States and Canada
Issue Brief October 7, 2021

Una squadra vincente: The US-Italian defense-industrial partnership

By Mauro Gilli and James Hasik



The imperative of allied industrial integration

As the United States continues to orient its defense strategy and policy toward great-power competition, it will need to more closely integrate its own defense-industrial base with those of its allies, including Italy. This imperative, articulated in William Greenwalt’s 2019 Atlantic Council report, Leveraging the National Technology Industrial Base to Address Great-Power Competition, is critical to confronting the multifaceted threats posed by China and Russia and addressing US national security needs in an age in which US military and technological advantages are being challenged. More robust defense-industrial integration will not be possible, however, unless Washington maintains secure supply chains with key allies—and, as one of the authors argues separately in a 2021 Atlantic Council issue brief, The Security of Defense Trade with Allies, enhancing contact, contracts, and control in supply chains will be essential to signaling the strength of the US alliance network and ensuring the provision of defense goods and services in times of crisis or conflict.

This issue brief builds upon the work of these two earlier publications and launches a series of case studies exploring defense-industrial relationships between the United States and its allies, starting with Italy. This paper focuses on the US-Italian partnership to enable policymakers to better understand this relationship, leverage it more comprehensively to meet key strategic objectives, and secure the supply chains necessary to ensure US national security, in accordance with the recommendations of the earlier papers.

The state of the US-Italian defense-industrial relationship

Italy has long been an export customer of American armaments manufacturers, but during the past twenty years, Italy’s own defense-industrial capabilities have proven important to American customers as well. In the process, Italian firms have become integral to the US defense-industrial supply chain. Italian firms have acquired American subsidiaries, and American firms’ Italian subsidiaries. In armored vehicles, fighter aircraft, and surface warships, Italian-American trade has increased the extent of the market, lowering prices and producing valuable technologies. Recently, the financial value of the US market has been underscored by Italian investments, both political and financial. Since the end of the Cold War, Italian governments have largely chosen the Atlanticist path in their defense-industrial relations; the US government would do well to consider the value of that long-standing commitment.

About the authors

Dr. Mauro Gilli

Senior Researcher, Military Technology and International Security, Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich

Dr. James Hasik

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Forward Defense, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council

About the project manager

Mr. Steven Grundman

Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council


This project is made possible in part through the generous support of Leonardo DRS.


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